In Building Afghan Army, It's Back to Basics

By Walter Pincus
Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Building up Afghanistan's army, which has become a top priority in the Obama administration's strategy, will not be simple, no matter how many more U.S. troops are going to be provided Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal.

Army building, like nation building, is a challenge in a country in which corruption is rife and illiteracy is high. Nine out of 10 new Afghan army recruits cannot read or write, according to recent news reports.

One way to gauge how the U.S. military sees this job is to look at the tasks that have been drawn up for the 175 contractors to be hired to help mentor and train personnel at the Afghan Ministry of Defense.

The U.S. Army Materiel Command has provided bidders for this two-year contract with a 96-page statement of work. It details the tasks to be performed by teams assigned to each of the 18 functional areas within the ministry.

Many of the tasks reflect Pentagon practices transferred to Afghanistan. For example, the contractor is to "develop and deliver an education program on ethical practices for key leaders" in the offices of Defense Minister Rahim Wardak and his top deputies. They are also to develop an ethical code of conduct for leaders, as well as "a tracking system for allegations of corruption."

A 16-member contractor contingent is to work in the office of the Afghan army intelligence chief, which has overall staff responsibility for coordination of major intelligence disciplines, according to the work statement.

The contractors' first task, one that is already underway, is to complete the writing and production of "a cornerstone military intelligence manual similar to the U.S. FM 2-0 (Intelligence)." That is the intelligence field manual used by the Army.

The contractors are to eliminate from the U.S. manual any policies or regulations that would not be compatible with Afghanistan mores, but keep those "critical portions addressing ANA [Afghan National Army] missions."

Once an English text is completed, the contractors are to monitor translation into Dari or Pashtu as directed by the Afghan chief of intelligence. They then are to "coordinate" internal approval through other ministry officials and then through Wardak's signature.

When the manual is approved, they are to coordinate its printing and distribution. Finally, they are to coach the Intelligence Ministry workers in preparing a training program for teaching the manual to Afghan army intelligence personnel. Part of that program is to ensure "that more than 50 percent of Afghan National Army intelligence personnel complete basic computer and Dari literacy training," according to the work statement.

The contractors are also to develop a curriculum for basic and advanced courses for military intelligence officers, including training in counterintelligence and human intelligence. In the latter cases, the contractors are to adapt material from Army field manuals on those subjects.

In the first year of the contract, the goal is to train 50 percent to 70 percent of those officers in the human intelligence field. How elementary is that training? It includes such basics as surveillance principles, interviewing, how to approach sources, questioning and debriefing, according to the work statement. Contractors are also to teach intelligence officers how to manage sources and write reports on what is learned.

The work statement describes as the "desired end state," after the first year, that Afghan officers in the human intelligence field have "the ability to conduct source operations with only routine contractor assistance." At the end of the second year, the goal is that the Afghan officers "demonstrate the ability to conduct source operations independently."

At the ministry level, contractors are to train and advise the deputy intelligence chief in charge of collection to link his human spying activities to the intelligence requirements of the Afghan army.

The counterintelligence area also needs basic development. For example, contractors are to work with the deputy intelligence chief for counterintelligence to establish "a mechanism for background investigations of new Afghan Army recruits." That must include mentoring Afghan counterintelligence officers in procedures for such investigations based on questionnaires filled out by recruits.

At the more advanced level, the contractors are to advise intelligence officers serving in the Afghan Military Command Center on "proper briefing of relevant material" and to improve sharing with other entities, such as the National Police Command Center.

Does this seem like a difficult contract to undertake? No fewer than 37 companies have indicated to the Army that they have an interest.

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